Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about relationships of all kinds – those between mother and child, between friends, between business partners, and between love partners. What I’ve realized is not ground-breaking. It’s that all relationships, no matter what kind they are, need a lot of attention. You’ve got to put the time in.
Recently, I celebrated my 21st anniversary with my husband. This is a big year for us. We’ve got one kid who has exited her teens and one leaving for university. Our youngest is stretching his boundaries and insisting he’s not a child anymore. We’re getting older too, and while we’d like to think things haven’t changed, they have – not just physically, but emotionally too. Our priorities and what we value have shifted as time has passed. We’ve raised three children and soon we can see the writing on the wall. In just over three years it’s just going to be the two of us.
In the meantime, we’d better keep reminding ourselves why we got hitched in the first place. I don’t want to wake up one morning, look at him, and think, WHO ARE YOU? A deep desire to avoid online dating is not the best reason to stay married.
I meet so many young couples who never spend time alone after they have kids. I even spoke to one woman whose eldest was eight years old, and in all that time, she and her husband never even gone out to dinner or a movie without their children. EIGHT YEARS. That can’t be healthy for a relationship. This is why I don’t particularly like the expression date night. Going out with your spouse shouldn’t be such an odd occurrence that you have to call it a date. It’s a sad state of affairs when you have book time with your partner.
When I was growing up, my parents had a regular babysitter and they went out every Saturday night. At least once a year they left us with grandparents or a nanny and went away just the two of them. That’s just what parents did. And that’s what my husband and I try to do. It’s important to be together, just us, and put the time in to work on your relationship.
It’s hard to keep up the magic with the pressures of real life butting in. You need to find a way to be just the two of you, whether it’s in a movie theatre or on an island, or somewhere in between. You don’t have to go far (we’re still iffy about leaving the teenagers to care for our house and two dogs.) So on our anniversary, we packed up our overnight bags and headed downtown for an incredibly relaxing and romantic staycation at the Intercontinental Toronto Centre.
Then, we did the work. But it was all play.
We made a few plans, but basically left ourselves lots of time. While everyone we knew made jokes about the shenanigans they thought were going to go on in that hotel suite, and sure, being alone without a kid randomly walking into our room was a bonus, what we did concentrate on was re-engage our intimacy. We hung out in terry robes, drank champagne, ate chocolate strawberries. And talked. We walked the lakefront of the city from end-to-end. And talked. We took the ferry to Ward’s Island and had dinner at the incredibly special Rectory Cafe and talked. We didn’t work, we didn’t deal with kids, we just hung out.
I think being fluid is where many couples falter. After so many years and with the pressures of life, it’s easy to fall into a routine. It’s easy to get complacent and even become reluctant to try new things. The same old is just easier. But going outside the box keeps life exciting – both as individuals and a couple. I’m not talking about sex here, I’m talking about how we find adventure in every day life. Sometimes those adventures are solo (his motorcycle, my kickboxing) and sometimes they’re together. We crammed two brand-new experiences into our staycation, one out of both of our zones (an incredible helicopter ride over Toronto) and one so far out of his that it was in another universe (a couples massage.) Not only did we enjoy these activities as a couple, but we both grew as individuals. Double bonus and even better for our marriage.
I feel like after a long time couples become immune to each other’s needs and quirks. It’s not that we’ve stopped caring how the other person feels, but rather that it becomes exhausting to always be worrying if we’ve hurt their feelings. When you’re in the throes of first love, you’re so concerned with your new love’s emotions. Are they sad, upset, happy? What can I do to please them? This concern naturally fades, but it shouldn’t. If anything, the stresses of life just amplify perceived slights. It’s more important to be in tune with how your partner is feeling. Spending time alone together away from real-life, quietly not doing anything helps you to to develop an intuition about your partner. It’s hard to remember sometimes that you’re not the only person in the relationship with feelings. But the hard work and planning I put into the weekend was so worth it. Especially when I could visibly see the stress draining away from his face.
Since that weekend almost a month ago, I’ve noticed a change in both of us. He’s more relaxed, I’m more understanding. We fight less and listen more. We seem to get each other again, a skill that was becoming a lost art.
It feels so good to be so connected that I’m ready to plan our next getaway. Where should we go next?
Not such a post-script: I’d like to thank the following companies for making our 21st anniversary so special…
The team at the Hotel Intercontinental Toronto Central. This hotel truly is an urban retreat and was perfectly located for all of our adventures. The staff was incredibly attentive, the food delicious, and I had two of the best sleeps of my life in that bed. The attention to detail made the day. Extra thanks to the masseuses at the Spa Intercontinental Aveda Concept spa who pretended not to notice how awkward my poor husband was to be in his scanties & a bathrobe in public.
Toronto Heli-Tours: What can I say? Amazing. What an adventure. The flight over Toronto was the bombiggity, and the only thing bad about it was that it was way too short. When I lost my phone only it was in my purse the whole time, you were very patient.
The Rectory Cafe: Spectacular setting, fantastic food, and warm and welcoming staff. The ferry ride makes it even more special. We will be back.